By Jackie Fraser
This time last year we went away. We stayed in a tiny cottage near Rye. Our eighteenth Valentine’s. We drank champagne and sat in front of an open fire and said things like, “Still here, then!” and told each other we loved each other. I think one of us may have been lying.
I don’t think I’ve ever read a book written in the present progressive tense before: Mrs. McCain smiles at me. “I’ll let him know you’re here. Have a seat.” I haven’t time to, though, as the door on my left is opening and here’s Alistair Gordon, hand out in greeting. “Mrs. Mottram. It’s good to finally meet you.” Once I got over trying to figure out how Thea, our heroine, is able to tell her story while it is actually happening, I quite enjoyed it. 43-year-old Thea is trying to recover from the pain of her recent separation from her adulterous husband of almost 20 years and the loss of her job. When she gets a letter telling her that her Uncle Andrew has left her a cottage and a book collection in his will she feels that this is just the break she needs. She jumps at the chance to go to Scotland for a time to get a fresh start.
As she settles into the small community and starts making friends, she decides she quite likes it and decides to get a job and stay a little longer. She convinces the obnoxious, rude, and anti-social bookstore owner to take her on, despite the warnings of her new friends. She is confident she can handle him. And, thanks to her sense of humor, she is right. They work well together, Thea increases the store’s sales with some creative marketing and takes charge of developing more of an online presence on social media. A single woman, a quaint bookstore, and a picturesque town. It’s practically a genre. Soon it is evident to the reader, the town, and everyone except Thea that the curmudgeonly but very attractive Edward has fallen head over heels in love with her. And Thea is not indifferent.
After things finally come to an emotional head, Edward being Edward fires her. She is devastated. This turning point happens with plenty left to go in the book. Why did he do that? Why did he renounce their friendship? What is the bitter feud with his brother, the laird, about? Why did Edward, the older brother, renounce his title and lands and open a bookstore to make his living? Will Thea go back home to Sussex or will they be reconciled? What about her husband Chris? I loved that we are not kept in suspense for long.
Edward comes to terms with his feelings very quickly and they become a couple. Thea learns to navigate the challenges of their very different backgrounds and values. But once they declare their love there is no doubt that when regretful Chris visits her having second thoughts that Thea is in no danger of going back to him. Thea’s home and new life is with Edward in Scotland.
By the end of the book, we realize just what a force of nature Thea has become. She is quite a different woman from the one who came to the little town, and miserable Edward is a new man. Her future is bright and is to be envied.
This is a funny, warm and romantic story with great character development, lots of atmosphere, not a lot of plot, but with some suspense and drama thrown in. I enjoyed alternating between reading and listening to the story on Audible.
**3 1/2 stars**
December 20, 2021